Abiding in the Retreat

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Abiding in the Retreat: A Nyung Nä Commentary combines several teachings given by Lama Zopa Rinpoche on nyung nä, a powerful two-day practice associated with Chenrezig, the Buddha of Compassion.

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Lama Zopa Rinpoche teaching in Cham Tse Ling gompa, Hong Kong, April 2016. Photo: Lobsang Sherab.
13: Taking the Restoring and Purifying Ordination
Refuge and Bodhicitta

After taking refuge, think, “I’m going to generate bodhicitta in order to successfully accomplish the works for myself and the works for other sentient beings.”

Purifying the Place

Everywhere may the ground be pure,
Free of the roughness of pebbles and so forth.
May it be in the nature of sapphire,
And as smooth as the palm of one’s hand.

After Refuge and Bodhicitta comes the prayer for purifying the place, for transforming the place into a pure realm. This is a means of accumulating extensive merit. Before we invoke the holy objects of Guru, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, we should clean the place and then also mentally visualize it as a pure realm, as beautiful as possible, with all good qualities.80

Doing the practice of purifying the place has a purpose. For example, if we were going to invite a king or some other important person to our house, we would first clean the house to receive them. In a similar way, we need to clean the place where we are going to invoke all the buddhas and bodhisattvas.

Buddhas do not see phenomena as clean or dirty, as we do. To a buddha’s senses, everything appears as only pure, as only of the nature of great bliss. However, even though nothing is dirty to the buddhas, we need to purify and accumulate merit in order to create the causes to generate the graduated path to enlightenment for sentient beings. This is why we visualize a pure place, as described in the prayer.

The place becomes like a pure realm, not an ordinary place with suffering. The ground is sapphire and smooth like the palm of a hand. The ground isn’t solid, but soft and blissful in nature; stepping on it is like stepping on an innerspring mattress. There are no rocks, thorns or anything else to hurt you as you walk on it. There are no dirty or ugly things. Instead, the pure realm is filled with many beautiful things, such as pools with huge lotuses having petals the size of a drum. Like in a park, there are many huge flowers and beautiful trees. Birds are flying around making the sounds of Dharma. When the wind blows through the beautiful flowering trees, you also hear the sounds of Dharma. And the whole atmosphere is filled with a fragrant smell.

Think that the place is as beautiful as possible. The purer and more beautiful you are able to visualize it, the more merit you will accumulate.

Invocation

Next is the invocation of the merit field, where we invite all the buddhas and bodhisattvas to be present.81

Savior of every single sentient being;
Destroyer of all the multitudes of maras;
Completely understanding all phenomena:82
Qualified Destroyer, with all your entourage, 83
I’m requesting you to be here.

This prayer was recited by Sumaghada (Magadha Zangmo), a woman from Magadha, the area around Bodhgaya in India, when she wanted to invite Buddha and his entourage to her home to offer them a meal. Her husband, who was a Hindu, said, “Even if you invoke Buddha and his entourage, they won’t come.” She replied, “They will come.”

So, holding incense in her hand, Sumaghada sat at the door of her house and recited this prayer. When she said the prayer, many of the Buddha’s disciples, looking glorious, immediately appeared in space between the mountains and her house. As each one appeared, because he looked magnificent, Sumaghada’s husband thought, “Maybe this is Buddha.” He kept asking, “Is that Buddha?” and Sumaghada kept saying, “No.” With their psychic powers, Buddha’s entourage flew through space riding on lions, elephants and other animals. The very last one to come was Buddha.

Buddha one-pointedly, continually, thinks only of working for sentient beings. Therefore, as Sumaghada had the karma to receive Buddha and make offerings to him, when she recited the invocation, Buddha and all his disciples immediately came, and she was then able to make offerings to them.

In reality, it is similar for us, though we don’t see it because of our karma. Whenever we do an invocation or make a request, Buddha is there all the time with us, whatever we are doing, wherever we are, and whether we are happy or suffering. It’s just that because of our impure karma, our karmic obscurations, we don’t see it. The only problem is from our side.

Offering Prayer

This verse is for blessing and multiplying the actually arranged and mentally transformed offerings. Visualize that the whole of space is filled with offerings. Besides all the beautiful objects on the earth, which appear according to our karma, mentally transform offerings that fill the whole of space.

Offering Cloud Mantra

OM NAMO BHAGAVATE VAJRA SARA PRAMARDANE / TATHAGATAYA / ARHATE SAMYAKSAM BUDDHAYA / TADYATHA / OM VAJRE VAJRE / MAHA VAJRE / MAHA TEJA VAJRE / MAHA VIDYA VAJRE / MAHA BODHICITTA VAJRE / MAHA BODHI MANDO PASAM KRAMANA VAJRE / SARVA KARMA AVARANA VISHO DHANA VAJRE SVAHA

We then recite three times the mantra that blesses and multiplies the offerings so that they become clouds of offerings filling the whole of space. Reciting this mantra has two functions: it blesses the offerings we have arranged and it causes each buddha in all the ten directions to receive clouds of offerings.

In addition to the offerings we have actually arranged, we visualize that each buddha and bodhisattva receives numberless offerings.

When you chant the Offering Cloud Mantra, you can also think of all the offerings in your own room; in the gompas of all the FPMT centers; in Khachö Dechen Ling, the house in Aptos, California; and in Amitabha Buddha Pure Land, the retreat place in Washington state. Offer all the flowers, both outside in the gardens and inside the houses. Offer also the many thousands of light offerings, outside and inside, large and small (there are many of the small Christmas lights, as well as bigger ones). Also offer the many water offerings in various rooms, but especially in the offering rooms. Offer the tea and food offerings. Even though you haven’t been to the two houses and don’t have an exact picture of the places, just think of offering all the many flower, light, water, tea and food offerings that are there.

Then chant the Offering Cloud Mantra, and by the power of the mantra each of the numberless buddhas and bodhisattvas receives skies of offerings. Each flower offering, whether big or tiny, increases to become skies of flower offerings to each buddha and bodhisattva. Each small Christmas light offering at the centers and at the Aptos and Washington houses appears as numberless light offerings to each buddha and bodhisattva. If you just think of all the offerings and then chant this mantra, each buddha and bodhisattva receives all those offerings.

Extensive Power of Truth

By the power of truth of the Three Rare Sublime Ones,
The blessings of all the buddhas and bodhisattvas,
The great wealth of the completed two types of merit,
And the pure and inconceivable sphere of phenomena;

May these piles of clouds of offerings arising through transformation by the bodhisattvas Arya Samantabhadra, Manjushri, and so forth—unimaginable and inexhaustible, equaling the sky—arise and, in the presence of the buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions, be received.

After the Offering Cloud Mantra, we recite a prayer called The Power of Truth to ensure that what we pray for actually happens, that the holy objects actually receive the many offerings we have visualized. We pray for all the offerings to happen as visualized and for all the buddhas to receive all the offerings as visualized.

When you recite The Power of Truth you must visualize that each buddha and bodhisattva has received numberless offerings, skies of offerings. The more offerings—one hundred, one hundred thousand, one million, one billion—you are able to think they have received, the more causes of enlightenment you collect. If you visualize a billion offerings, you create one billion causes of enlightenment as well as, by the way, one billion causes of liberation from samsara, of the happiness of all future lives, and also of the happiness of this life. All the happiness and success of this life comes by the way, even if you are not thinking about it or looking for it. It comes through Dharma—everything comes through Dharma practice. You might be looking only for enlightenment, but liberation, the happiness of future lives and the happiness of this life also come. Everything comes.

Seven-Limb Prayer

After this, we accumulate merit with the seven-limb practice.

I prostrate with my three doors.
I make all the offerings both mentally and actually transformed.
I confess all negative karmas.
I rejoice in all the merits accumulated by ordinary and higher beings.
Please abide well until samsara ends.
Please turn the Dharma wheel for transmigratory beings.
I dedicate all the merits accumulated by me and by other sentient beings to achieve enlightenment.84

I will explain more about how to do the seven-limb practice when it comes later in the sadhana (see chapter 15). I will try to explain the important practices we have to do every day to purify and to generate realizations of the graduated path to enlightenment. Anyone who wants to actualize the path to enlightenment has to do these different practices many times a day. These explanations will be helpful for understanding not only this Chenrezig practice, but other deity practices as well.

Mandala Offering

Once you have received the lineage of the Eight Mahayana Precepts you can take them at the altar in your own house. At that time, offer a mandala to Chenrezig, Shakyamuni Buddha, Amitabha or whichever buddha you have visualized.

However, when a lama is giving the Eight Mahayana Precepts, do the seven-limb practice and mandala offering in relation to that lama and to all the rest of the buddhas and bodhisattvas, but not with the appearance of the lama as an ordinary human being. Stop that ordinary appearance and here, in this practice, visualize the lama as Thousand-Arm Chenrezig. The essence is Chenrezig and the aspect is also Chenrezig. And Guru Chenrezig is surrounded by the numberless buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions. However, whether or not a lama is giving the vows, you always visualize the buddhas and bodhisattvas.

Visualization and Motivation

Before taking the actual ordination, do three prostrations then kneel down with your palms together at your heart in the mudra of prostration. As I just mentioned, if a lama is granting the vows, visualize him as Thousand-Arm Chenrezig, surrounded by all the numberless buddhas and bodhisattvas. Since you have visualized the guru as inseparable from Chenrezig, think that you’re repeating the prayers of the ceremony after Guru Chenrezig.

To generate a bodhicitta motivation for taking the Eight Mahayana Precepts, you can use one of the motivations I gave earlier (see chapters 9, 10 and 11) or, feel deeply from your heart: “I and all other sentient beings have experienced the general sufferings of samsara85 and the particular sufferings of the lower realms numberless times from beginningless rebirths. This suffering is depthless and beginningless. Even the Omniscient One cannot see the beginning of the samsaric suffering experienced by me and other sentient beings.

“We have experienced the hell sufferings numberless times, again and again, again and again, as well as the preta sufferings. We can see how animals are suffering, and we have been through all those sufferings again and again, again and again, without beginning. And it is the same with the human and deva sufferings.

“To take another rebirth, another set of deluded aggregates of desire, another samsara, is like jumping again into a fire. Taking another rebirth is like running from one fire into another. It’s like eating food that you have vomited.

“From bodhicitta, from cherishing others, I can achieve the happiness of future lives; I can achieve all the three great meanings. Also, by having bodhicitta, I can bring each suffering sentient being, who is more precious than I am, all the temporary happiness of the three times, as well as liberation and enlightenment. Bodhicitta is unbelievably important and precious, more precious than a wish-granting jewel. Therefore, until I achieve enlightenment, until I die, this year, this month, this week and especially today, I won’t allow myself to be under the control of the self-cherishing thought for even a second. Until enlightenment, until my death, this year, this month, this week and especially today, I won’t allow myself to be separated from bodhicitta for even a second.

“What sentient beings want is happiness, including the peerless happiness of enlightenment, and what they do not want is suffering. There’s no way to accomplish this except through my achieving enlightenment. Achieving enlightenment depends on the fundamental practices of protecting karma and practicing morality. Therefore, to lead all sentient beings to enlightenment, I’m going to take the Eight Mahayana Precepts and keep them until sunrise tomorrow.”

Actual Ordination

The special animals, the divine wise horse and the great elephant, are examples related to the works that Buddha accomplished. Cessation of all mental stains is the work for self and completion of all realizations is the work for others.

The purpose of mentioning your name— . . . I, who am called [say your name] . . . —is to make sure that you are sincere in doing the practice for sentient beings.

. . . in order to benefit means you bring temporary happiness to all sentient beings and in order to liberate means you bring not only temporary but ultimate happiness to all sentient beings. Think, “I am taking the Eight Mahayana Precepts to bring temporary and ultimate happiness to all sentient beings, to free them from true suffering and true cause of suffering.”

As you say “in order to eliminate famine,” remember all those countries in the world that have problems of famine. Taking the Eight Mahayana Precepts is a solution to famine in the world and helps the economy, helping to bring plentiful production of food and so forth. It helps to bring prosperity.

Remember that in the past, as I explained in the benefits of the Eight Mahayana Precepts (see chapter 5), many Dharma kings had rules about taking the Eight Mahayana Precepts, and taking them completely changed the country. Since rains came at the right time and crops grew well, there was no scarcity of food. The whole environment changed when the people started taking the Eight Mahayana Precepts.

As you say “in order to eliminate sickness,” think of curing and preventing mental and physical sickness. Remember all the sick people in hospitals and at home, those who aren’t sure whether they will survive today or not. Think of the people who are dying now and those who are having operations and don’t know whether they are going to survive or not. However, they have no choice: there is no other way for them to live. Think of all the people with cancer, AIDS and other incurable diseases who are experiencing so much suffering, so much worry and fear. There are many diseases for which there is no treatment.

Think, “I’m taking and keeping the Eight Mahayana Precepts today for all the sentient beings who have problems of famine and sickness, to free them from the suffering of famine and sickness. I’m taking them for those who have problems of birth, old age, sickness and death. I’m taking these Eight Mahayana Precepts today for all those who are under the control of karma and delusion, whose life is not free but determined by karma and delusion.”

Taking the Eight Mahayana Precepts also helps to stop war. With in order to eliminate war,86 feel in your heart, “My taking and keeping the Eight Mahayana Precepts is the solution for world peace, and for the peace of all sentient beings, not only those in this world. What I’m doing is a method to stop all quarrels, fighting and war between sentient beings.” Ultimately, it is a method to actualize the path and to lead all sentient beings to enlightenment.

You can also dedicate the merit that you accumulate by living in the vows to all the people with relationship problems. It is as if they are living their life in hell or in a nest of rattlesnakes. They have no happiness, day or night. They are so suffocated by their many problems that they can’t breathe freely. Think, “My taking the Eight Mahayana Precepts today is also to pacify the suffering of those in difficult relationships and to bring them happiness.”

Think, “My taking and keeping the Eight Mahayana Precepts is to bring all these benefits to the world. It is for the peace and prosperity of the world and of all sentient beings.”

At the end of the third repetition of the actual ordination, without a wandering mind, you must generate the thought, “I have received pure Eight Mahayana Precepts, the Restoring and Purifying Ordination, from Guru Chenrezig, surrounded by all the buddhas and bodhisattvas.”

If you are taking the precepts from a lama, when the lama then says, “Thab yin no,” which means, “This is the method,” you reply, “Leg so,” which means, “Yes.” Here, This is the method might be related to the Eight Mahayana Precepts rather than to enlightenment.

On the second day of a nyung nä, when you say “from this time until sunrise tomorrow” (ji si sang nyi ma shar gyi bar du), you should make the time precise in your mind so that you don’t break the precepts. Think that you are going to completely fast from this moment until sunrise tomorrow: “To achieve enlightenment for sentient beings, I won’t eat or drink until sunrise tomorrow.”

The text says that on the final morning of a nyung nä you are liberated from silence when the dawn time starts, and after dawn, you can have soup. In some monasteries the vase water is passed around at that time. At this time there’s already much light, and you can see the palm of your hand and everything else clearly. If there are surrounding mountains, the mountains have sun on them or are about to be hit by sunlight. At that time, when everything is clear, you can then serve soup.

Generally, the day starts when the east is whitish and the rest of the sky is dark. That’s the very beginning of the day. Dawn time has three divisions: the first is when the eastern sky is whitish, the second is when it becomes red and the third is when it becomes whiter. In his teachings, Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo says that the change comes in three colors.

When the eastern sky starts to become a little white, that’s the very beginning of the day, the first phase of the dawn time. However, it depends on what you intended when you said “until sunrise tomorrow” in making the vow. If you decided that it’s when sunlight actually comes to the place where you are, you should wait until then.

There are many details when it comes to until sunrise tomorrow. Does it mean the sun rising in this world? Or in a specific place? There are many different sunrises. If somebody is in a house in a hidden corner between huge mountains, maybe the sun won’t even reach there. And there are places like Iceland where there’s no sun for six months, so you would have to do a very long nyung nä, a six-month nyung nä, until the sun rises.

In the vinaya and in other teachings, the beginning of the day is generally defined as when the stars have lost their brightness. So, you can have food at that time. But it is up to the individual person. You might want to sleep for many hours and eat later—even when the sun sets. The Sherpas in Solu Khumbu like to get up very early in the morning and have food early. It makes it easier for them to do nyung näs. It helps them not to lose the inspiration to do nyung näs. They don’t get fed up because it’s so difficult and then think, “I won’t ever do a nyung nä again!”

Basically, it depends on what you decide when you make the vow. If, by knowing this, you then make a particular commitment, that’s correct. That is what is explained in the vinaya teachings.

The Commitment Prayer to Keep the Precepts

After thinking, “I have received the restoring and purifying ordination in the presence of Chenrezig and all the buddhas and bodhisattvas,” then recite or repeat after the lama the Commitment Prayer to Keep the Precepts. As you do so, think, “As the previous Tathagatas kept these eight precepts for the sake of sentient beings, today I am also going to keep these eight precepts until sunrise tomorrow in order to free each and every sentient being from all their suffering and its causes and lead them to enlightenment.”

On the second day of a nyung nä, in the parts where it mentions actions of speech (“I shall not speak false words” and “I shall avoid singing . . .”), it’s good to think, “I’m going to keep silence to achieve enlightenment for the sake of sentient beings.” Remember that precisely at that time. When it comes to abstaining from telling lies and from singing, remember to dedicate your keeping silence for sentient beings so that it becomes virtuous.

In the eight precepts of the Lesser Vehicle path intoxicants generally refers only to alcohol, but here in the Eight Mahayana Precepts it also includes tobacco. Tobacco is a black food, or substance, along with meat and eggs. Taking the eight precepts of the Lesser Vehicle path involves abstaining from only alcohol; the words of the vow don’t mention to abstain from cigarettes. I think that’s why many Theravadin monks smoke cigarettes. Perhaps they’re not emphasizing the mind so much, even though generally in Buddhism the main emphasis is the mind.

Tobacco and other drugs pollute the mind. Opium is the worst, the most polluting. Even the smell of opium is a great pollution. It destroys merit and blocks the channels and chakras. Here, intoxicants refers to things that don’t give energy to the mind to do virtuous things. On the other hand, things like Tibetan tea give you energy to read, study or do virtuous activities instead of being lazy.

When you say “I shall not eat food at the wrong time” on the first day of a nyung nä retreat, you should also think that you will eat only one meal. When you take the Eight Mahayana Precepts regularly or at least quite often, you can have breakfast, even if you are not taking the precepts every day. But if you take them very rarely, it’s better to keep them strictly. It is better to be stricter the one time you do the practice. The prayer itself says not to eat at the wrong time, which means in the afternoon—it doesn’t specify one meal or anything else. So, here you should think, “I will eat one meal and I will not eat at the wrong time.” You should motivate to eat one meal, and the reason is to achieve enlightenment for the sake of sentient beings. There are these two things. This renunciation becomes powerful because you’re making this sacrifice to benefit all sentient beings.

If you are completing a nyung nä while the rest of the group is continuing, you can still take the Eight Mahayana Precepts again on your final day, either after breakfast or even before breakfast, even though you are not going to do the nyung nä. By taking the ordination, you are practicing some part of the nyung nä. You’re not practicing exactly according to this text of Chenrezig practice; but you are making vows to abstain from committing a certain number of negative karmas for that day, so it becomes that much of a nyung nä.

According to His Holiness Serkong Rinpoche’s advice, after making the vow to eat just one meal you should eat well and as much as you want, then when you’ve finished eating, stop completely. You shouldn’t decide to stop eating, then change your mind and eat again. If you do that, it’s not eating one meal, even though it might not be after 12 o’clock. First eat well and then, when you decide not to eat, stop completely so that it’s one meal.

There’s an interesting story about two friends who used to take the Eight Mahayana Precepts. The wife of one of them pushed her husband to eat some fruit in the afternoon. Since she insisted so much, he ate the fruit. The other person didn’t break the precepts.

The person who didn’t break the precepts was reborn as a king. The person who broke the precepts by eating fruit in the afternoon at the insistence of his wife was reborn as a naga in the land of that king, who was his friend before.

The king had a pond, and one time a beautiful fruit came out of the pond. The king’s gardener picked the fruit and gave it to the bodyguard who stood at the palace gate. The bodyguard then gave the fruit to a minister who was going inside the palace to see the king. That minister gave the fruit to the prince, and the prince gave it to the king. The king asked, “Who gave you this fruit? The king checked back and back and back, until he came to the gardener. Since the gardener had never given him such fruit before, the king thought that the gardener must have been getting such fruit all the time and eating it all himself. (I think the fruit wasn’t commonly found around there.) So when the king finally found out that the fruit had come from the gardener, he threatened to imprison or kill the gardener if he didn’t give him more.

The gardener then cried and prayed hard at the pond for another fruit to be produced. I’ve forgotten the last part of the story. I think the naga told the king about their both taking the Eight Mahayana Precepts in their past life and about how the king didn’t degenerate them, but his eating food in the evening became the cause for him to be born as a naga.

Here in the nyung nä practice you should also avoid black food, which is not mentioned in the eight pratimoksha precepts. Black foods such as meat, onion and garlic make the body impure; they pollute the body. When the body becomes impure, it makes the mind foggy, or unclear, so that you can’t meditate well. Nyung nä practice is from Action Tantra, which is why there is an emphasis on keeping the body clean, which involves avoiding black food.

If you do nyung näs rarely and do a nyung nä on your own in a place where food is easily available, it’s good to eat the three whites (yogurt,87 milk and butter) and cheese, rice, flour and those types of food. That’s the best way to do a nyung nä. However, when a big group of people do a nyung nä together, as happens in Lawudo, or it’s a place where food is difficult to get, you then have to use vegetables and other types of food.

There are gradations in the strictness of the practice. The main black foods are meat, alcohol, garlic, onion and radish. I think this refers especially to the round radish that has a very bad smell and makes the body have bad gas. The best is to eat just completely white food. You can have rice, flour, yogurt, cheese, milk and butter. You can arrange something like the section in a supermarket where there are seventy different types of cheese. Ice cream and similar sweet white foods are also fine. That’s the purest way to do a nyung nä.

There are other Action Tantra samayas, such as not eating food from leaves, from broken pots or from the palm of your hand. Drinking from the palm is there in the nyung nä practice. You put the nectar in the palm of your hand and drink it, but it says not to eat from the palm.

In the evening of the first day, you can have honey and melted brown sugar, but not thick liquids like yogurt, fruit juice with pulp or straight milk. After noon, there should be no yogurt and no whole milk when you are fasting.

This applies not only to nyung näs but even when taking the eight precepts of the pratimoksha vow or the Eight Mahayana Precepts. The prayer of the precepts says not to eat after noon, so you shouldn’t eat yogurt, whole milk or anything substantial that makes kaka. It doesn’t say, and I haven’t heard, that you can’t have milk tea, but in the Theravadin tradition you can have only black tea. I wouldn’t suggest having thick milk tea if you’re fasting, but I think you can have thin milk tea made with less milk, so that drinking it doesn’t break the vow. It actually says that you can’t have milk, but you can have thin milk. Essentially, when you do a nyung nä, the milk used to make tea should be thinner, with much more water than milk. It is better that way.

But a candy or anything else that melts in your mouth is allowed.

On the second day, the actual fasting day, from dawn you stop talking and don’t take even one grain of food or one drop of water. In the traditions of some lamas and some monasteries, you’re not allowed to swallow even your saliva. At one Kagyü monastery in Darjeeling, people doing nyung näs carry a bottle into which they spit. This is the very strict tradition according to some lamas; but the Seventh Dalai Lama says, “I haven’t heard that and I haven’t seen any reference for doing that in the scriptures of any Indian pandit.”

I would like to emphasize generally that eating vegetarian food is very important. Especially in Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, people who are not vegetarian eat so many animals in one day. One person’s food for one day contains so many shrimps, scallops and other animals. Therefore, you should follow vegetarian practice as much as possible and also explain to other people the negative karma of harming and killing other sentient beings. In this way, if one person you have talked to becomes vegetarian through understanding karma, you have liberated so many animals even in one day, because that person then won’t harm or kill those animals. Since for the number of years that person lives they stop giving that harm, you have liberated all those animals that that would have been killed.

Be vegetarian as much as you can and also tell others about it, especially people in Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. It has incredible benefit. Since the person who becomes vegetarian stops creating that negative karma, you protect them from the lower realms. Each of those negative karmas makes them to be reborn in the lower realms. You also protect them from all the suffering in the human realm that results from that negative karma. You also protect all the animals from suffering and shortage of life.

In Tibet, it is common for people to eat meat, but many people eat one big animal. In countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, since one person eats many small animals in one day, there is more benefit in being vegetarian there.

The Mantra of Pure Morality

Then recite twenty-one times the mantra that purifies and revives the precepts that have been degenerated.

OM AMOGHA SHILA SAMBHARA [SAMBHARA] / BHARA BHARA / MAHA SHUDDHA SATTVA PADMA VIBHUSHITA BUJA / DHARA DHARA / SAMANTA / AVALOKITE HUM PHAT

Due to all the merits that I have accumulated now by taking the Eight Mahayana Precepts, all my past merits and all my future merits and all the merits of the three times accumulated by all other sentient beings, including the bodhisattvas, and by all the buddhas, may I and all sentient beings be able to complete the paramita of morality by keeping it purely and without pride.

In the Mani Kabum, Songtsen Gampo explains that reciting the mantra of pure morality has three benefits: you purify past degeneration of morality and precepts, you receive the bodhisattvas’ pure morality and you’re also able to practice, or preserve, pure morality.

My suggestion is that, as part of refuge practice in the morning, do prostrations by reciting the Thirty-five Buddhas’ names or do at least three prostrations, and at the end kneel down and recite this mantra five, seven, ten or more times. (In the ceremony of the Eight Mahayana Precepts, you recite it twenty-one times.) There is no doubt that it’s very good for Sangha, for monks and nuns, to recite this mantra even when not taking the Eight Mahayana Precepts. But it would also be good for laypeople who have taken five or any other number of lay vows to recite this mantra to be able to keep those vows purely. It’s very good to be able live purely in the vows that you have taken, to not degenerate them. Even if you’re not taking the Eight Mahayana Precepts, it’s still good to recite this mantra to be able to live purely in the vows that you have taken.

In Tibetan, this mantra is called tsul trim nam dag zung, the zung of pure morality, where zung means a mental state that is mindful, or conscientious, in abandoning negative karma and living in virtue. That is its essential meaning, even though zung is generally translated as “mantra.” In Tibetan, mantra is actually ngag, which means protecting the mind. Again, mantra doesn’t mean something you just chant. It contains the whole path to enlightenment and all the qualities of a buddha’s holy body, holy speech and holy mind. It contains the four noble truths and all the paths: the Hinayana path, the Paramitayana path and the tantric path. The meaning is similar to that of OM MANI PADME HUM. Mantra performs the function of protecting the mind, and within that comes all the tantric paths: the paths of Action Tantra, Performance Tantra, Yoga Tantra and Highest Yoga Tantra. Those paths protect the mind from the defilements, from the disturbing-thought obscurations and the subtle obscurations, and bring one to enlightenment.

Chanting this mantra of pure morality helps you to keep purely the vows you have taken and also to purify vows you have degenerated in the past. Those who have recently taken vows should recite this in the morning to be able to continue to live in pure vows. If you have pure vows, everything then happens: you’re able to achieve the whole lam-rim, up to enlightenment.

At this point, if you have taken the restoring and purifying ordination from a lama, do three prostrations, as before, to the lama visualized as Thousand-Arm Chenrezig.

Dedication

You can then dedicate the merit with the following verses:

May bodhicitta be generated within my mind
And in the minds of all sentient beings.
May those who have generated bodhicitta develop it.

Just as the brave Manjushri and Samantabhadra, too,
Realized things as they are,
I, too, dedicate all these merits in the best way,
That I may follow their perfect example.

I dedicate all these merits
With the dedication praised as the best
By all the buddhas of the three times,
To quickly enlighten all sentient beings.

Due to all the merits of the three times accumulated by me and by all buddhas, bodhisattvas and other sentient beings, which are merely labeled by the mind, may the I, which is merely labeled by the mind, achieve enlightenment, which is merely labeled by the mind, and lead all sentient beings, who are merely labeled by the mind, to that enlightenment, which is merely labeled by the mind.

Feel that taking the Eight Mahayana Precepts is your contribution to world peace—to the peace of this world and all sentient beings. You have taken eight precepts, which means you have made vows not to do eight actions that harm sentient beings directly or indirectly. Since other sentient beings don’t receive those eight harms, it means they receive peace, directly or indirectly, from you. The absence of those eight harms is peace. This is a real, practical contribution to world peace. For all the hours that you are living in these vows, all sentient beings are receiving peace from you.

Therefore, rejoice. Feel happy that you have made your life beneficial for sentient beings.


NOTES

80 For the benefits of cleaning the place, see appendix 1. [Return to text]

81 Previously, Invocation came after Extensive Power of Truth. [Return to text]

82 Past, present and future. [Return to text]

83 The bodhisattvas and the rest of the holy beings. [Return to text]

84 One version of Rinpoche’s translation of the seven-limb prayer. [Return to text]

85 Here you can think of the eight, six or three types of suffering. [Return to text]

86 Rinpoche has added this, along with in order  to stop the harm of the four elements, to the original ordination ceremony. [Return to text]

87 Rinpoche usually says “curd.” [Return to text]